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‘Is it something like Aadhaar?’: Little awareness about CAA, NRC in country’s tribal belt

The eligibility criteria under the Forest Rights Act is that any person living in forest areas for at least three generations (75 years) prior to 13 December, 2005, can claim land up to four hectares.

Updated: Dec 19, 2019 05:55 IST

By Sanjoy Dey/Ritesh Mishra/Ranjan, Hindustan Times Ranchi/Raipur/Bhopal

he CAA, which fast-tracks the process of granting citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, was cleared by Parliament last week. (Burhaan Kinu/HT PHOTO)

People in the country’s tribal-dominated hinterlands say they are not very aware of the new Citizenship Amendment Act but are worried about not having adequate paperwork to prove their citizenship if a nationwide National Register of Citizens (NRC) process is undertaken.

Many say the CAA might not impact them because various tenancy laws prohibit outsiders from buying tribal land.

“There has been no new settlement of outsiders in tribal areas in recent past. Those who came have been dealt with under the Forest Rights Act,” said Chintu Dorai Buru, director of the government-run Tribal Research Institute , Ranchi.

The eligibility criteria under the Forest Rights Act is that any person living in forest areas for at least three generations (75 years) prior to 13 December, 2005, can claim land up to four hectares.



The CAA, which fast-tracks the process of granting citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan, was cleared by Parliament last week. Since then, a number of states and educational campuses have seen protests against the new law. The NRC, first undertaken in Assam, is aimed at removing illegal immigrants from India.

HT reporters spoke to tribespeople in three states --- Jharhand, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh --- to find out their views on CAA and NRC.

PEOPLE’S VIEWS

People of Sabanu, a tribal-dominated village in Latehar district, around 135 km from state capital Ranchi, said they have heard about CAA and NRC but weren’t aware of its implications.

“Majority of the people here are farmers. They are busy dealing with farming related issues. So, we do not know what the CAA or NRC is all about,” said Bhuwaneswar Oraon, 60.

Somnath Hansda, 45, of Ghoribad in Dumka district of Santhal Parganas, said he has not heard about CAA . “I do not what this is all about, though it have seen news about the protests,” he said.

In Chhattisgarh’s Manikonta village, which falls in Maoist-affected Sukma district, Marvi Mukka, 30, claimed to have never heard about the CAA or NRC . “Is it something like Aadhaar?,” Mukka asked.

Others living in urban settlements in Sukma and Maoist-affected districts said they knew about NRC and CAA. “I do know about NRC and CAA by reading newspapers and watching TV but I feel that we will not be affected by this act because no one from outside country came and settled in this part of state,” said Shiva Yadav, a resident of Dornapal in Sukma district.

In the tribal-dominated Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh, most people were unaware of the CAA and NRC even though young people knew about ongoing agitations in various parts of the country.

Ratan Tirkey, member of Tribal Advisory Committee (TAC), Jharkhand, said, “Tribals are ignorant about the CAA due to several reasons. The act was passed recently and there is not awareness.”

LACK OF DOCUMENTS

Despite low awareness about the CAA and NRC, many were concerned about the documents neededto prove one’s citizenship.

Most of the villagers said they had documents such as voter ID card, ration card and Aadhaar card, which were necessary to avail government benefits, and wondered whether these would be enough.

Devi Sahai Bhagat, 25, a tribal resident of Latehar district in Jharkhand, wondered whether he will have to make rounds of government offices to get new set of documents for the NRC. “Getting a document from a government office is a Herculean task. I am worried.”

Mukka in Sukma wonders if the Aadhaar card, an important identification document according to him, will be enought for NRC. Sukma is a part of Bastar, which is dominated by Gond tribals.

“I have one Aadhaar Card, ration card and voter ID card but I usually carry Aadhaar during movement because there is camp near my village and usually there is a security check. At many places inside Sukma, security forces do routine checking to identify Maoist and hence one identification card is a necessary thing during travelling,” said Anil Kunjam, another tribal from Sukma district.

Vikas Adivasi wanted to know whether the domicile certificate issued under the Forest Rights Act would be considered under the NRC. “We got land rights based after providing that we have been living here for generations. I don’t know whether that land certificate would grant me citizenship.”

Tirkey said several tribespeople living in forest areas didn’t have access to proper documents. “They might face challenges in getting documents.”

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